Another Breeders' Cup champ tasted defeat in weekend racing amid a flurry of contests putting the final touches on this year's renewal at Santa Anita.
Winx was an easy winner of her showdown with Black Heart Bart in Australia while Aidan O'Brien continued his domination in Europe and Galileo progeny won from Newmarket to Lexington.
Winners and losers abound. In many cases, there will be more rounds to come -- in the Breeders' Cup, the Cox Plate, the Hong Kong International Races and next year's classics around the world. At this point:
Photo Call produced the upset of the weekend in Saturday's $400,000 Grade I First Lady at Keeneland, defeating the heavy favorite and defending Breeders' Cup champ, Tepin, with a runaway effort.
Photo Call, a 5-year-old, Irish-bred Galileo mare, shot right to the lead under Kent Desormeaux, led by 10 lengths down the backstretch and held on gamely through the lane. Tepin saw her eight-race winning streak end when she couldn't get closer than 2 3/4 lengths while finishing second. Celestine was third and English import Nemoralia finished fourth.
Photo Call had not won since the Grade III Orchid at Gulfstream Park in April and Desormeaux said he went against trainer Todd Pletcher's instructions in the First Lady.
"I'm sorry, Todd," the rider said. "He told me to cover her up, but that wasn't possible. That was not going to happen ... She was really full of herself. She was a pleasure to ride."
Norm Casse, assistant trainer for Tepin, said, "We hoped for the best, but this is why we picked this race in particular. We didn't really want to run her 'A' race today. The goal has always been the Breeders' Cup Mile, a repeat there. I haven't lost any confidence in her, I think we are still set up to do that and she'll move forward from this race."
Miss Temple City pressed the pace in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, moved to the lead turning for home and gritted out an impressive victory, holding off late-running Ironicus by a head. Tourist was third and the favorite, Arlington Million winner Mondialiste, finished fourth.
Miss Temple City, a 4-year-old daughter of Temple City, finished in 1:37.04 under Edgar Prado. The win completed a rare double of this race and the Grade I Maker's 46 Mile during the Keeneland spring meeting, though Miss Temple City had struggled in the interim.
"My frustration was over the summer when it seemed we got a little lost with her," said winning trainer Graham Motion. "She had some tough trips. I'm glad the crew talked me into running her here today."
His alternative was the First Lady, two races earlier on the card.
"She's a very special filly. I think she's been on form all summer. It's just been frustrating that she hasn't been able to show it on the race track," he added.
Motion said he would have to "think about" the Breeders' Cup Turf Mile, where Miss Temple City earned a berth through the "Win and You're In" proposition. Others in the ownership team, however, reportedly have their bags packed for Santa Anita.
Vyjack closed stoutly down the lane to win Saturday's $200,000 Grade II City of Hope Mile at Santa Anita by 1/2 length over Om. The favorite, Obviously, tired from the lead to finish third.
Vyjack, a 6-year-old Into Mischief gelding, ran 1 mile on firm going in 1:31.69 with Flavien Prat up. He has two wins and two seconds from four starts this year. The other win came in a Keeneland allowance during the spring meeting.
Phil D'Amato, who trains both Vyjack and Obviously, said Vyjack showed enough versatility to give him options.
"The original plan was the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile for Vyjack but with the way he ran today, we'll see," D'Amato said. "The turf milers here have such tremendous turn of foot and Vyjack showed that today and it set up for him. He trains just as well on the main track here at Santa Anita, too. So we have a couple of options to look at and think about."
Hoppertunity swung to the outside turning for home in Saturday's $1 million Grade I Jockey Club and eased by the pacesetters, Protonico and Effinex, to win by 1/2 length, posting his first win since the Grade II San Antonio in February. Effinex finished second while Protonico faded to finish third, 2 1/2 lengths farther back.
Hoppertunity, a 5-year-old son of Any Given Saturday, ran 1 1/4 miles on a fast track in 2:00.68 with John Velazquez aboard. The race is a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Classic, which could pose a challenge for trainer Bob Baffert.
"There wasn't a whole lot of speed in the race other than Effinex," said Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes. "Everybody stayed sensible. The most important thing for Hopper is that he was standing good and broke good and he was placed more forwardly in the race, especially on a slow pace, that's probably why he was a little closer."
Keen Ice, whose claim to fame is beating American Pharoah in last year's Grade I Travers, returned to action Friday for the first time since his March visit to Dubai, finishing third in a Belmont Park allowance race. Running from well off the pace, the 4-year-old Curlin colt wasn't able to muster enough to catch the early leaders, Wake Up in Malibu and Adulator, who ran 1-2 from gate to wire.
Reigning Breeders' Cup champion Mongolian Saturday returned to the scene of his triumph on Saturday and responded with a convincing victory in Saturday's $150,000 Grade III Woodford at Keeneland.
With Carlos Montalvo up, the 6-year-old Any Given Saturday gelding sat just off the pace, took the lead in the stretch and held off a dramatic late bid by Hogy to win by 1/2 length. Front Pocket Money and Galton dead-heated for third and fourth. Mongolian Saturday ran 5 1/2 furlongs on firm turf in 1:03.46.
Since his victory in the 2015 Breeders' Cup at Keeneland, Mongolian Saturday had finished fifth and ninth in a pair of Group 1 events in Hong Kong and ninth and 11th in Group 1 races in England.
Enebish Ganat, who trains the horse for a syndicate of Mongolian owners, said there is an explanation for the poor performances.
"This summer, we were in England and a doctor found a big ulcer," the trainer said. "It took two months but it seems everything is all right. We're going to take him to the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita."
A.P. Indian continued his winning ways in Friday's $250,000 Grade II Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix at Keeneland -- but just barely. After wresting the lead from Limousine Liberal early in the stretch run, he had all he could do when that rival found another gear in the final sixteenth. At the wire, it was A.P. Indian by a nose, with Ami's Flatter 3 1/2 length farther back in third.
A.P. Indian, a 6-year-old Indian Charlie gelding, had to run a track-record time of 1:08.24 to get the job done under Joe Bravo. It was his fourth straight win, the two previous coming in the Grade I Vanderbilt and the Grade I Forego, both at Saratoga.
"I was worried since the three-eighths pole when he got shuffled back," said winning trainer Arnaud Delacour. "I knew it was going to be tough to make up ground. The horse who finished second has a great performance on this track. He likes this track. So I knew it was going to be tough to get it done. He did a great job."
He said A.P. Indian will ship back to the Fair Hill training center in Maryland and ship at the last opportunity to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He earned a spot in that heat through the "Win and You're In" offering for the Phoenix winner.
Lord Nelson chased down the early leaders in Saturday's $300,000 Grade I Santa Anita Sprint Championship and went on to win by 2 1/2 lengths as the odds-on favorite. All Run and Jazzy Times were spaced out in second and third.
Lord Nelson, a 4-year-old Pulpit colt, finished 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:08.80 with Flavien Prat in the irons. It was his fourth straight win, including the Grade I Triple Bend at Santa Anita and the Grade I Pat O'Brien at Del Mar in the two previous starts. Bob Baffert, who trains Lord Nelson and Jazzy Times, mulled over the prospects for the Breeders' Cup Sprint since Saturday's race was a "Win and You're In" for that.
"There's always a lot of speed in that race," Baffert said with typical understatement. "To win the Sprint you have to be doing really well, be at the top of your game. Post position is so important. The break is important. The Sprint is a difficult race to win, but if you have the right kind of horse you can do it, and so far, Lord Nelson looks like the right kind of horse. He likes this track and he hasn't lost this year."
I'm a Chatterbox was the easiest of winners in Sunday's $500,000 Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland, romping away in the lane to score by 7 lengths over Paid Up Subscriber. Genre was another 5 lengths back in third. With Florent Geroux up, I'm a Chatterbox ran 9 furlongs in 1:49.98 and earned a berth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff through the "Win and You're In" challenge.
The 4-year-old Munnings filly won the Grade I Delaware Handicap earlier in the year and was a close fourth in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga in her previous outing. She finished sixth in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, only 6 3/4 lengths behind the recently retired winner, Stopchargingmaria.
"She ran really big," said I'm a Chatterbox's trainer, Larry Jones. "When it came time to run, she really exploded down the lane very nice. It seems like her numbers are getting better after every race, so I think she's at the peak right now. We hopefully have room for improvement."
And he suggested improvement might be needed next month.
"I think this may be the deepest Distaff that I have seen in a long time. There's seven really good horses. I'm putting her right there with them."
Filly & Mare Sprint
Irish Jasper snuck up the rail in the stretch run of Saturday's $250,000 Grade II Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland and got right by the dueling leaders, Stonetastic and Bendable, winning by 1 3/4 length. Stonetastic held second, a neck in front of Bendable.
Irish Jasper, a 4-year-old First Defence filly, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:09.64 with Julien Leparoux at the controls. She was stepping up a bit in class in her third start of 2016 but won her last outing at Saratoga easily. The race was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint but co-owner Will Farish was in no hurry to commit to that race.
"She'd won two Grade IIIs, but this race was a big thing for us," Farish said. "A big thing to have it here at home. Julien rode a hell of a race, particularly from the eighth pole where he had to make that move. Going that fast, it's pretty tough."
Gloryzapper dueled throughout Sunday's $100,000 Grade III L.A. Women Stakes at Santa Anita, put away her initial challenger and then held off Wild at Heart to win by 1/2 length. Perfect Pic was third. Gloryzapper, a 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on a fast track in 1:15.75 with Stewart Elliot up, scoring her first graded stakes victory.
"When she has her head in front of the rest of the opposition, she loves the fight," said winning trainer Phil D'Amato. "She loves to hold them off. Passing horses, she's just okay, but she loves to be in the mix and fight them off. ... We'll see what's next. Maybe the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint but, we'll see."
Camelot Kitten rallied late on the outside to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade III Hill Prince at Belmont Park by a head over Grade I Secretariat Stakes winner Beach Patrol. Annals of Time ran evenly to finish third.
Camelot Kitten, another of the Kitten's Joy brood bred and owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, ran 1 1/8 miles on the firm inner turf course in 1:47.25 with Irad Ortiz Jr. in the irons. It was his fourth win in seven tries this year for Chad Brown, who trains all of the top three.
"We never really looked beyond this race," Brown said. "Obviously, the Hollywood Derby out west is an opportunity to run against straight 3-year-olds on turf. I think all three would be considered for that race."
Pure Sensation was just up at the wire to nip pacesetting long shot Power Alert in Saturday's $150,000 Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational, winning by a head. Green Mask closed last to finish third.
Pure Sensation, a 5-year-old Zensational gelding, ran 6 furlongs on firm turf in course-record time of 1:07.10 with Kendrick Carmouche in the irons. It was the third straight win for the eighth-place finisher in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint. He won a pair of Grade III events in his two previous starts.
"I was surprised not to be on the lead," said winning trainer Christophe Clement, who credited Carmouche for a heads-up ride. "I didn't speak to Kendrick yet about the race, so I don't know how he felt or the way he thought. But watching the race I thought, 'Okay, we're having a great trip, saving ground,'" Clement said. Carmouche said he was just trying to keep Pure Sensation comfortable.
Filly & Mare Turf
Lady Eli returned to the winner's circle -- and a rare New York ovation -- with a hard-fought victory in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Flower Bowl for fillies and mares at Belmont Park, edging by pacesetter Sentiero Italia in the final strides to get home first by 3/4 length. Sea Calisi was third. Lady Eli, with Irad Ortiz Jr. up, ran 1 1/4 miles on the firm inner turf course in 1:59.85.
Lady Eli won all six of her starts as a 2- and 3-year-old, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and the Grade I Belmont Oaks Invitational. After that race, she was sidelined with a life-threatening bout with laminitis. She just missed in her comeback race Aug. 27, finishing second to Strike Charmer in the Grade II Ballston Spa at Saratoga.
The race was a "Win and You're In" event for the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf.
Trainer Chad Brown said, "I never heard have an ovation like that going back to the winner's circle ... It takes such a rare horse to overcome what she has and to make it all the way back to center stage at the Breeders' Cup. I think she's one of the all-time great turf mares. I really believe that."
Practical Joke emerged from behind a hot pace duel to win Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Champagne at Belmont Park by a nose. Syndergaard ran west coast invader Big Gray Rocket into submission through 6 furlongs in 1:08.76 and just missed holding on, finishing second. Favorable Outcome was 6 1/2 lengths farther back in third, 1/2 length in front of Big Gray Rocket.
Practical Joke, an Into Mischief colt, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.68 and remains undefeated after his third start. He won a maiden race at Saratoga by 5 lengths, then was a narrow winner in the Grade I Hopeful over that same course.
Winning trainer Chad Brown said, "The race set up beautifully for this horse. He's undefeated, he's a really good horse. He's handled the distance increases every time we've asked him to, and we're looking forward to getting to run him a little bit further. The runner-up is a very good horse as well, and deserves a lot of credit for fighting as well as he did."
John Velazquez, who rode Syndergaard, said, "Tough beat. Not much to say other than he got beat. He had to fight the whole way around, and that was it. He dug in."
The race was a "Win and You're In" deal for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Classic Empire sat just off the pace in Saturday's $500,000 Grade I Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, asserted himself as the field straightened out into the lane and won off by 3 lengths. Lookin at Lee rallied from last of 12 to finish second, 1 length ahead of long shot Wild Shot, who led much of the way and persisted gamely. Classic Empire, a Pioneerof the Nile colt, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:43.41 with Julien Leparoux in the irons. The race is another "Win and You're In" thingamabob for the Breeders' Cup.
Classic Empire won his first two starts, including the Grade III Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs, then lost his rider at the start of the Grade I Hopeful at Saratoga.
"This is a very, very talented horse," said assistant trainer Norman Casse. "The day after the Hopeful we got right to work on him. We put blinkers on him. We breezed him out of the gate several times. It paid dividends today. We'll more forward from here. You've got to think this horse has plenty of room to improve."
Golden Hawk romped in Sunday's $150,000 (Canadian) Grade III Grey Stakes on the Woodbine all-weather course, leading all the way to a 5 1/4-lengths win. Han Sense disputed the pace through the early fractions and held on for second despite some erratic running. King and His Court finished 1/2 length farther back in third.
"With a small field, you don't want to get trapped on the first turn," said Husbands. "So I just let him run away from there, and he just pricked his ears. I had everything my way."
Wellabled, fresh from a victory in the Grade III Arlington-Washington Futurity, led from the early stages in Thursday's $100,000 Fitz Dixon Memorial Juvenile at Presque Isle Downs and won comfortably by 2 lengths over Boys From Boston. Romeo O Romeo was third. Wellabled, a Shackleford colt, ran 6 1/2 furlongs on the all-weather track in 1:16.75 with E.T. Baird up. He now is 3-for-4 with a good second on the turf at Saratoga but has yet to test a dirt surface.
Keep Quiet, caught three-wide on the first turn, stalked he pace down the backstretch in Sunday's $250,000 Grade III Dixiana Bourbon at Keeneland, worked to the lead early in the stretch run and held off the favorite, Ticonderoga, winning by 1 1/4 lengths. Bird's Eye View was along to finish third.
Keep Quiet, a French-bred colt by Elusive City, was coming off a second-place finish to Made You Look in the Grade II With Anticipation over the Saratoga turf -- a race in which Bird's Eye View finished third. Ticonderoga was fresh off a maiden win at Belmont Park.
Keep Quiet, with Florent Geroux up, finished the 1 1/16 miles on firm turf in 1:44.92 and earned a spot in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf via the "Win and You're In" portal.
"This is a super talented horse," said assistant trainer Norman Casse. "We were disappointed in him early. We figured him out a little bit. He wants to be comfortable early. He didn't want to be rushed off his feet sprinting. Flo gets along with him really well. We just let him be him."
Yellow Agate edged by pacesetting Libby's Tail in the final jumps to win Saturday's $400,000 Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park by a head. It was another 9 1/4 lengths back to Colorful Charades in third. Yellow Agate, a daughter of Gemologist owned by the China Horse Club, ran 1 mile on a fast track under Manny Franco in 1:35.82. She won at first asking at Belmont a month ago and now is qualified for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies under the "Win and You're In" offering.
"Where do we go next?" asked winning trainer Christophe Clement. "First, let's enjoy this for a day or two. I'm aware of the Breeders' Cup. I'm also aware of other things. I'll have to speak to my owner about the next step but let's just see how she comes out of this race and go from there."
Dancing Rags shadowed the early speed in Friday's $400,000 Grade I Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland, launched a three-wide bid entering the stretch and got clear at the end, winning by 1 length over a late-running Daddys Lil Darling. Fun was third with an even trip and the favorite, Diadura, was never a factor, finishing 11th of 14.
Dancing Rags, a Union Rags filly trained by Graham Motion, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:44.69 with Angel Cruz up for his first Grade I win. She was coming off her maiden-breaking win at Laurel Park.
"I felt it was an open race. She just seemed to have done really well since her maiden win at Laurel (on Sept. 17) and progressively kept improving. This is the time of year when you've got to take a shot."
The race is a "Win and You're In" deal for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and Motion said, "I wasn't expecting to win so I would have to think about it. "I don't necessarily want to move her around a lot. We have to figure out all the pros and cons about what would be best for her."
Daddys Lil Darling had the outside post and trainer Kenny McPeek said he plans to take her to the Breeders' Cup. "We had the best horse today," he said. Daddys Lil Darling earned a spot in the Juvenile Fillies by wining the Pocohontas at Churchill Downs.
Anchor Down shot out to the lead in Saturday's $350,000 Grade II Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park and never did drop anchor, winning by 2 lengths from Tamarkuz. Ocean Knight was another 4 1/2 lengths back in third. Anchor Down, a 5-year-old Tapit ridgling, ran 1 mile on a fast track in 1:32.90 under Javier Castellano.
The grey horse finished second in the Met Mile in June, albeit 14 1/4 lengths behind Frosted, and then threw in a clinker in the Grade I A. G. Vanderbilt when he had traffic troubles.
Castellano said the key to the Kelso was getting a clean break and a clean trip. Winning trainer Todd Pletcher said he's not positively inclined toward the two turns of the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.
"I would probably think a one-turn mile is more to his liking," Pletcher said, mentioning the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 26.
Over the waves:
The "match race" in Saturday's Group 1 Caulfield Stakes turned into a tour de force as Winx romped home first, 2 lengths to the good of Black Heart Bart. The only other runner, He Or She, finished 6 lengths behind the winner. Black Heart Bart led the way early, then floated Winx out toward the middle of the track when she came to challenge on the turn. It was all to no avail as Winx, with Hugh Bowman up, drew off from the 200 meters and the challenger had no answer. Winx, picking up her 12th straight win, running the final 1,000 meters in 56.83 seconds. The result boosted Winx's stock -- if it needed a boost -- as a repeat candidate for the Cox Plate in two weeks' time.
Also Saturday, Global Glamour was a 1-length winner over I Am a Star in the Schweppes Thousand Guineas with the favorite, Foxpay, third. And Divine Prophet staged a minor upset in the Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas, edging Seaburge and Hey Doc with the favorite, Impending, finishing fourth.
He's Our Rokkii was a popular, if narrow, winner in the Group 1 IG Markets Toorak Handicap, 1/2 length in front of Great Esteem.
Kangaroo Jack hopped away to a 2-lengths victory in Saturday's Group 2 Joburg Spring Challenge at Turffontein while the Group 1 Durban July winner, The Conglomerate, never ran a lick and finished last in his return engagement. The win for Kangaroo Jack, a 4-year-old by Querari, at 1,450 meters, could be a step toward greater distance as the spring progresses. The Conglomerate never was expected to show much, running off a long layoff and far short of his optimal distance.
Aidan O'Brien is making a habit of dominating the finish in big races. After a 1-2-3 in the Arc last weekend, the Irish master sent out Rhododendron and Hydrangea to finish first and second, 2 1/4 lengths apart, in Friday's Group 1 Dubai Fillies Mile at Newmarket. It was another 6 lengths back to Urban Fox in third. Like his French trifecta, Saturday's two are both by Galileo. Rhododendron now has three wins from five starts, with Hydrangea finishing second in two of those wins.
It was more of the same on Saturday as the O'Brien-trained Churchill and Lancaster Bomber ran 1-2 in the Group 1 Dubai Dewhurst over the Newmarket course. Bluepoint, representing Godolphin Racing, was third. Churchill, another Galileo product, already was a hot thing for next year's Guineas and Derby and did nothing to tarnish that prospect as he ran his winning streak to five. The only anomaly in this finish is that Lancaster Bomber is an American-bred colt by War Front.
In other action:
Slip the Cable gave the field the slip in the stretch run of Saturday evening's $500,000 West Virginia Breeders' Classic and drew off to a 7 1/2-lengths victory. The favorite, Charitably Annuity, put in a late run to finish second, 2 3/4 lengths to the good of Start Line. Slip the Cable, a 4-year-old Midshipman colt, ran 9 furlongs on a sloppy, sealed track in 1:50.44 with Arnaldo Bocachica in the irons. It was his seventh win from 11 starts.
Candy Man's Girl tracked the pace in Saturday night's $150,000 West Virginia Cavada Breeders' Classic for fillies and mares, went to the lead in the stretch and finished with good energy, defeating Cuppa Mocha Mojo by 1 1/4 lengths. The favorite, Red Hot Diva, was third. Candy Man's Girl, a 4-year-old daughter of Charitable Man, ran 7 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:26.21 with Antonio Lopez aboard.
Trace of Grace jumped to the fore in Saturday's $100,000 Plum Pretty Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred distaffers, opened a huge lead and coasted home first, 4 1/2 lengths to the good of Addibel Lightning. The favorite, Maybe Tonight, had a headache of a trip and finished third. Trace of Grace, 3-year-old Petionville filly, ran 1 1/16 miles on a fast track in 1:46.78 with Edwin Gonzalez in the irons.
Jimmy Bouncer bounced right out to what proved an insurmountable lead in Saturday's $100,000 Harris Farms Stakes for California-breds and the favorite, Well Measured, could only watch while finishing second, 3 3/4 lengths in arrears. Cartoonist finished third. Jimmy Bouncer, a 5-year-old Square Eddie gelding, ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.17 with Abel Cedillo in the irons.